Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Your Witness (05/17/59)

Attorney Arnold Shawn has his client Kenneth Jerome on the witness stand when his wife Naomi enters the courtroom.  His client has been involved in a auto accident which killed a woman.  Not being a Kennedy, he is looking at hard time.

Naomi is troubled by Arnold saying in court that he is searching for truth when he has been banging other women; and of course, the lawyer thing.  She flashes back to a conversation they had a month ago when she confronted him about the cheating.  Naomi accused him of dismissing it as if it were “a night out with the boys” which would have been a second problem.  Arnold said that after 10 years of marriage, having another woman show him some attention made him feel like “king of the barnyard” which is 1950s for cock of the walk.

Strangely enough her emotional flashback expands to include Al Carmody dropping by with info on the prosecution’s surprise witness Henry Babcock.  He is going to testify that when Jerome hit the woman, he was running a light.  Babcock is a model citizen, but Carmody and Arnold are sure they can dig up some dirt on him in pursuit of, you know, justice.

A month later, back in the courtroom, in what must be the longest hit-and-run trial ever, Arnold calls Babcock to the witness stand.  He testifies that Jerome hit the woman, backed up 50 yards to take a look, then drove off.  Unable to deny the facts, Arnold accuses Babcock of volunteering to testify because he wanted to be famous.

Seeing Arnold once again turn the truth into a lie, Naomi has another flashback.  Soon after the first flashback, Arnold says he was working late.  Naomi accuses him of lying, and has proof he was seeing the woman he had promised not to see again.  He casually continues eating a sandwich, and accuses her of being prudish.  She asks why he married her in the first place.  He answers, “Your father was an extremely influential man a dozen years ago and he had an extremely attractive daughter, also a dozen years ago!”  Oh shit!

Naomi is not so much on the pro-honesty band-wagon at this point.  As if Arnold hasn’t hurt her enough, he continues, “After all, it’s been 10 long years since you were 25!” Wait, she’s over the hill at 35?  That’s just into MILF porn range!  She is certainly no zero, but she seems to be rocking a size-zero dress — and back when that meant something.  This woman is svelte.  Brian Keith always seems like a coiled spring of hostility, and he is really brutal to her.  She is crushed.

Back in the courtroom, Arnold is cross-examining Babcock . . . I guess — I’ve never seen an episode of Law & Order, or Judge Judy.  Arnold brings up a lot of irrelevant facts such as why Babcock did not hear the woman earlier, that he doesn’t make much money, that he is lonely since his wife died, that he’s the janitor at a strip joint [1], that he is color-blind, and that he was fired from his job for having cataracts that impaired 85% of his vision. Well, those last two actually sound pretty relevant.  He is ruled incompetent as a witness and Jerome is found not guilty.

Naomi catches her husband in the hall.  She has the papers for him to sign so they can get divorced.  He thinks the current situation is fine and even suggests she get a little action on the side too. He tells her, “You could still be an attractive woman if you tried.”  See, he can be nice when he wants to.

In the parking lot, Naomi runs his ass down.  Too bad the only witness was just proven by Arnold to be an incompetent witness due to lousy vision.  D’oh!

This one is a little bit of a slog.  Naomi certainly isn’t the hag Arnold makes her out to be, but she is kind of dull.  Arnold is just thoroughly unpleasant with his cruelty and twisting of the law.  Two such presences do not make for a great viewing experience. However, the ending is pleasantly sharp and ironic . . . if you don’t think about it.

We are never told when Babcock had the corrective surgery.  If before Jerome’s accident, he should have spoken up.  If after then Arnold was right to nail him.  Either way, he has had the surgery by he time of the trial, so he could easily testify against Naomi.  But why would he after Arnold humiliated him on the stand?  Well, he was described as a model citizen.  Pffffft — should have stopped thinking while I was ahead.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The Chichi Club, where Arnold tells us young beautiful girls dance.  Sure, he shows a picture of the intersection, but we’re supposed to take his word about the girls?
  • And what cruel bastard hires an 85% blind man to work in a strip club?
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.

Outer Limits – New Lease (03/21/97)

Oscar Reynolds collapsed on the tennis court committing not only a foot fault but an asphalt.  I guess he had picked up a few bucks when still alive by selling his body to medical science.  Ergo, 12 hours later his frozen corpse is being delivered to a lab.  The doctors run him through the microwave and are able to bring him back to life.

He is understandably skeptical, but finally accepts that he is back from the dead.  Unfortunately, the doctors tell him that he will die again in a couple of days.  They just haven’t worked out all the bugs yet.  In an unusual departure for Outer Limits, this miraculous scientific breakthrough is made by two guys working in a dark lab rather than one guy working alone in a dark lab.

After 13 hours, Dr. McCamber is ready to pull the plug.  Dr. Houghton correctly points out there is no plug — the guy is alive.  McCamber counters out that the life he has was forced on him.  Well, welcome to the club, pal!

Oscar just wants to die.  When Houghton points out that Oscar will go down in history, Oscar busts him for being more concerned about his own reputation.  When Oscar has a seizure, McCamber implores him to just let the guy go.  Oscar does indeed die despite Houghton’s efforts.

Houghton is mugged in the parking lot.  After a struggle, he is shot. McCamber wastes no time dragging his dead ass back into the lab where he can be resurrected. When he awakens, his first thought is that he will soon re-die like Oscar did. McCamber drives him home where he hopes he can make up for years of neglect.  The next day, instead of buying millions of dollars of life insurance, he takes his wife and daughter to the park.  They then go out for a nice lunch.  Out the window, Houghton sees the man that killed him.

That night he tracks the man down and kills him although I never understood that sort of brutal vengeance.  Kneecaps . . . shoot him in the kneecaps!  Because everyone dies thinking they didn’t spend enough time at the office, he goes back to the lab that night. McCamber tells him the previous revivals all failed because they were working on frozen stiffs.  Houghton was fresh dead so he is actually recovering.  So, good call on skipping the insurance premiums; not so much on murdering a man in front of witnesses.

He has a loving reunion with his wife for about two minutes.  In an ending more like the 1960s Twilight Zone, the police show up and haul Houghton away.  They tell him he could spend the rest of his life in jail.

It was a good story with a great premise mostly supported by the usual Outer Limits quality production.  It felt like a little bit of a slog at times, though.  The most interesting thing was seeing Stephen Lang much younger than he was in Avatar and much, much younger than he was in Don’t Breathe.

Post-Post:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – A Night With the Boys (05/10/59)

Irving Randall is in a poker game with 3 co-workers.  Well, 2 co-workers and his jerk of a boss.  His boss Smalley goads him into betting over his head, not with it.  He loses big. On the way home, he is stopped by a cop for walking alone at such a late hour.  The cop warns him this neighborhood is not safe at night.

This gives him a swell idea.  I often criticize AHP for its many shrewish wives, but the pusillanimous husband is just as much a stock character.  What really defies belief is why the lovely wives married these worms when everyone knows beautiful women prefer fat overbearing oafs.  Afraid to tell his wife Frances he blew a week’s salary in a poker game, Irving roughs himself up, tears his suit, rubs dirt all over himself, gives himself a nasty cut on the cheek, then tells his wife he was robbed by a teenager.

He says, “This big kid, 16 maybe 17 sneaked up behind me . . . he took my wallet, my whole week’s salary.”  They are still newlyweds, so Frances is genuinely more concerned about Irving’s well-being than the cash.  She does demand that he call the police to report the robbery.  To his dismay, the police call to say they caught the thief.

Irving goes to the police station.  He tells the detective he lost $96.  The kid was found with $92, so it seems like a good fit if the kid had the munchies for 21 McDonald’s cheeseburgers ($.19 in 1955).  Irving is very sheepish about the whole thing.  Actually, he was pretty sheep-like before this happened; he’s even wearing a wool suit. He asks, “How can I be sure the cash is mine?”  The detective says, “Because he was caught exactly 3 blocks from where you were mugged, running like the devil was chasing him.  That’s what I meant by real evidence.”  Well, that is pretty fishy, but not exactly conclusive.

While I absolutely love the premise, this episode is a hard sell because so far the PJ-clad Frances is the only likable character.  And even she is on thin ice with that 1950’s night gown that contains more fabric than I wear to work.  Otherwise:

  • Smalley is a loud-mouth bully.  The other two players were non-entities in their suits and vests, while he was a cigar-chomping jerk in a Hawaiian shirt.  He took pleasure in tormenting Irving.  As he is also Irving’s boss, we know it will just continue in the morning.
  • The uniform cop is unnecessarily hostile to Irving who was just walking down the street.  And to profile for a second, is a well-groomed guy in a suit & tie really a likely criminal unless he is in Reservoir Dogs, or Congress? [1]
  • The detective is a hard-ass very eager to connect dots that might put this kid in jail.
  • The kid does himself no favors with his insolence, arrogance, and especially offensive to me, hair — just a huge shock of tall, thick, upswept hair.  The bastard.
  • Finally, Irving is such a jittery specimen that it is hard to empathize with the corner he has put himself into.  And how he did he land Frances, although he is a pretty handsome guy.  The bastard.

Irving is also not helped by the make-up representing the scar he gave himself.  He cut himself with a rock which actually was probably a better choice than the tin can that was next to it.  Unfortunately, this is shown as a long 3/8-inch wide streak of jet-black greasepaint.  A wound that massive should have sent him to the hospital, and maybe the basement of the hospital.  It is just very distracting whenever it is on camera.

Irving says since he got the money back, he does not want to press charges against the kid — just to give him a break.  The detective is surprisingly receptive to that forgiving attitude.  Maybe I misjudged him.

When the kid is told Irving is not going to send him to the big house, he gives a great reading of “Thanks for the break” letting Irving know he knows this is BS and that Irving is up to something.  Maybe I misjudged him.

Irving brings home the cash and shows it to his wife.  Unfortunately, he can’t feel good knowing the truth about how he got it.  On the plus side, she is wearing a different gown and this one is much, much better.  Maybe I misjudged her.

The next morning, Irving has to stop by Smalley’s apartment to pick up some papers.  He finds Smalley roughed up with a band-aid on his chin.  He was robbed by some kid of $92.  Irving finally feels some relief with the confirmation that the kid was a crook after all, and he didn’t steal money from an innocent person to cover his own shame at losing the money in a card game.

Smalley grovels and asks Irving if he can borrow a few bucks.  Irving shows some backbone and confidently says with a smirk, “Sorry, you know how it is.  I’m a married man.”  So maybe I misjudged him. [3]

Well, Irving might feel better, but he isn’t really off the karmic hook.  To cover his own issues, he put the kid back on the street to continue his crime spree.[2]  Also, indirectly, Irving stole back the money that Smalley won fair and square in a poker game. And feels great about it because that big poopy-head Smalley was teasing him.

A great premise and a pretty good episode.

Post-Post:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Joyce “I’m not Alice or Trixie” Meadows and Buzz Martin are still with us.  Sadly, as noted on a previous episode, Sam Buffington (Smalley) died at only 28, almost exactly a year after this episode aired.
  • AHP Proximity Alert:  William Kruse was just in an episode 2 weeks ago.  Give someone else a chance!
  • [1] Or a banker.  Or a lawyer.  Or a car salesman.  Or a pharmaceutical executive. Or a tobacco lobbyist.  OK, this profiling thing isn’t working out.
  • [2] Crime and spending — really the only two things where you can spree.
  • [3] When he first sees Smalley, Irving covers his scar to avoid questions.  After hearing Smalley’s story, he gains some confidence and stops hiding it even though, at that point, he has more reason to avoid explaining it.  The strangest thing is that Smalley never mentions the giant Harvey Dent-sized wound at all.
  • John Smith, who played Irving, was born Robert Errol Van Orden.  His name was changed by the same agent who rebranded Tab Hunter and Rock Hudson.  Clearly he was working on deadline when he came up with John Smith.
  • For a more in-depth look at the episode and its source material, check out bare*bonez e-zine.

Outer Limits – The Awakening (03/14/97)

Dr. Molstad is showing a journalist [1] around his clinic where he studies people who have no emotions.  A little girl is licked by a puppy and doesn’t want to wash up.  A little boy is treated to a concert by a piccolo-playing clown and isn’t screaming in terror.  Molstad says they have Alexithymia, which is an actual condition.

Joan Harrison [2] interrupts to show them a hostage situation on TV.  Beth Carter, one of Molstad’s patients, is being used as a human shield by a robber.  SWAT saves the taxpayers the cost of a trial.  Beth Carter is led away not just emotionless, but completely devoid of any reaction or interest in her endangerment, the man’s life or if he got blood on her sweater.  She doesn’t give a damn that the criminal died, so in this case her stoicism is appropriate.

Back at the clinic, Molstad tells Beth he has a huge potential break-through in her therapy.  And by therapy, he means implanting an emotion chip in her brain because he has seen how that always worked out well for Data on Star Trek TNG.  He tells her she is the perfect test case for the implant.  Well, yeah — what is she going to do, say she’s scared to have the operation?  Perfect!  He assures her this test could help millions of sufferers.

As they observe, Beth eats lunch and watches TV after the operation. There seems to be no change at all. Then Molstad sees her eyeing the TV remote.  “She wants to change the channel.  She’s bored with it, dissatisfied.”  I feel her pain.  He is ecstatic as she changes the channel. “She expressed a desire!”

Three months later, Joan takes Beth into her home.  They work on her hair, her wardrobe and have some chamomile tea.  Soon she is back at work.  After her first day, she excitedly rushes home to tell Joan about it.  Joan is not there, however, and Beth begins hearing noises and voices.  She faints, but comes around in time to go with Joan to their cute neighbor Kevin’s boat.

She later hears the voices again.  This time, however, something grabs her hand and she finds Joan’s cat dead on the doorstep.  As she is fleeing the apartment, she sees a giant green alien in the living room.

Molstad says the emotion chip is a failure.  Considering Beth’s emotional reaction to that assessment, he is either right or wrong and I firmly stand by that conclusion.  That night Kevin cooks her dinner and pours her wine.  As they start to get more horizontal, she again sees the aliens and they drag her away to their spaceship for a different kind of probe.  Or maybe the same kind.[3]

When she reports this, Molstad is adamant that the experiment is a failure. As he is calling the 24-brain surgeon to give her a Rosemary Kennedy, she flees the clinic.  She runs back to Joan’s apartment which is the first place they would look, but where else does she have?  She sees Joan’s cat is still alive.  Then she sees Kevin’s apartment is just a storage closet (and BTW, she apparently teleports into the room without him seeing her).  After Kevin leaves, she checks out his typical bachelor pad . . . no furniture, junk everywhere, pizza boxes, alien costumes, brightly lit mock-UFO interior.

Kevin and Joan come back and Beth sees them smooching.  She over-hears them discussing how they were gaslighting her because they had developed a rival emotion chip that could be worth billions.  She grabs the operating table from the UFO and rams Kevin and Beth right out the window.  It is laughable that the table was fast enough and had the mass to push two adults to their death.  On the other hand, it was satisfying and pretty awesomely shot.  Beth’s reaction is no reaction.

Molstad diagnoses her as returning to her previous state, so she escapes any punishment.  In his office, he tells her that the chip is dormant and will do no harm.  She goes back to Joan’s place because when you kill someone, you get to live in their apartment.

The ending is as much a construct as the fake UFO set.  Beth is alone in Joan’s apartment stroking Joan’s cat with that same blank expression.  Then she slowly gives us a big smile.  OK, maybe she faked the relapse to avoid punishment.  But why was she keeping up the ruse alone with cat?  And by faking, she has cost Molstad — who actually was a good guy — his chance at fame and fortune.  Oh, and those millions of Alexithymia sufferers Molstad mentioned?  Yeah, they shouldn’t get too excited about a cure any time soon . . . even if they could. [4]

The episode started losing me as it got a little sappy.  Also, Beth in her emotionless state was unconvincing.  However, she was perfectly fine after getting the chip.  It was also interesting to see a young Curtis Manning from 24 as Kevin.  Not a great outing, but this show seems to have a natural floor — it can never be any worse than just OK.

Tomorrow: Science Fiction Theatre, which I also think can never get any worse.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The actress has an almost Garrett Morris level of ability to find just the wrong inflection in any sentence.
  • [2] LA Law’s Michelle Green in a role that just screams for Teryl Rothery.
  • [2] Khaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnn!
  • [3] Er, he actually kind of admits to date-raping her and Joan is mostly OK with it.
  • [4] After news of this ruse hits, the rival chip maker will be crippled by fines and lawsuits.  Who am I kidding?  They will pay a fine equal to 1% of their Net Income, no one will go to jail, and a few Senators will have new swimming pools.
  • Half the same plot and 9/10ths the same title as Awakenings.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Banquo’s Chair (05/03/59)

The episode opens with the same type of pointlessly specific title cards that Hitchcock aficionados will recognize from Psycho.  Blackheath . . . near London . . . October 23, 1903 . . . 7:20 PM.

Inspector Brent is making a call on Major Cook-Finch.  Brent asks to see Cook’s dining room and to speak to his “man” Lane.  Brent’s plans are as meticulous as the title cards, as he dictates everything from the seating arrangement to the position of the gas valve. The Shakespearean actor Robert Stone arrives.  Before the actor can have an hysterical tantrum about leaving England if George V takes the throne, Brent explains the haps.

There was a murder 2 years ago in this house.  The suspected murderer, John Bedford, is the guest of honor.  He was the sole heir to his Aunt Mae’s estate, but had an alibi. Inspector Brent has devised a plan where an actress will appear to be the ghost of Aunt Mae.  She appears during the pheasant and Bedford blurts out a confession.  They read him the Miranda Warning [1] and haul him off to gaol.

This episode uses one of the oldest tropes on TV — the pseudo-supernatural event that is staged, and occurs despite the unexpected absence of the perpetrators.  Not only is this lazier than I expect from AHP, it breaks with their tradition of non-supernatural episodes.  I can think of only one previously.

And it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock?

Not only that, but it ran laughably short.  Hitchcock’s vignettes seemed longer than usual, but the closing credits really showed the padding.  My God, they just went on and on. The make-up and gaffer credits were on the screen so long their mothers were saying, “Get on with it already!”  The union called and said, “We’re satisfied, let’s move on!”.  The theme was repeated countless times.  Really an off week for AHP.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I didn’t realize this was a thing outside the US, much less in 1903. Although, back then it referred to Carmen Miranda and was a warning to wash fruit before eating it.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  According to IMDb, Kenneth Haigh (John Bedford) is listed as still alive at 88. But I have to wonder who notifies them in case of death.
  • Banquo is a reference to a character in Macbeth, and not Spanish for Bank as I thought.
  • For an in-depth look at the episode and the original work it was based on, check out bare*bonez e-zine.  Spoiler:  He liked it a lot more than me.